After travelling in Latin America for 5 weeks, Darshita Thurairajah dishes out her top tips for those who intend to understand and experience Latin America in a short time and on a tight budget. Look out for a recount of her experiences next week on GoBeyond.SG. Text & Photos by Darshita Thurairajah
Given that flights from Singapore to Latin America were expensive, I saved on accommodation by staying with my friends and “couch-surfing”. My friends ended up being the best tour-guides and I managed to engage and immerse myself in the local culture, social manners and language.
2. Eat and learn to cook local delights.
I ate only local delights recommended by friends and locals. Most of the time, I cooked with the friends I lived with – we made tortillas; empanadas (a baked or fried pastry); crab ceviche; mote con chicharrón (corn with pork rinds) and all types of corn!
– 30 pesos in Mexico (about S$3) can get you a bag of chips and a bottle of cola.
– You can get a decent meal at a local food shop in Ecuador with USD 3 -4 (the Sucre, the Ecuadorian currency, has since been replaced with the US dollar).
– Similarly, at local joints, 6 Peruvian Sol is enough for a meal complete with soup, lamb and rice (Alvadito).
Some Latin American drinks you have to try:
Source: Peru Delights
- Emoliente. It is perfect for a cold winter’s day if you drink it straight from the steaming pot, but also incredibly refreshing on a hot summer’s day, when it is chilled. This beverage has been sold by street vendors in Lima for more than a century. People love it both for it’s sweet soothing flavors and for its medicinal properties.
- Fresh fruit juices! Ecuador is rich in fruits and vegetables. Do make sure you try all sorts of fresh fruit juices from Babaccos to berries and oranges.
- Beer Cocktails. Basically a cold beer with the following ingredients: lime, salt, chilli sauce and maggi seasoning. It makes a wicked beverage; but its not for everyone.
3. Take public transportation
I joined the locals in vans, buses and trains. Taxis, though affordable, were not as cheap. Keep your valuables safely locked in your bag and avoid displaying your phone unless absolutely necessary.
Especially the peseros (local bus)
These generally cost $3 or $4 pesos, depending upon the route/quality of the bus, and you just pay the driver when you board. They have a fixed route, going towards the destination posted on their windshield, so do look our for these! The peseros pick up any passengers that flag them down along their route (a bit like Harry Potter’s Knight Bus), so although very convenient, it makes the travelling time unpredictable.
Source: All HP Fans Tumblr
Interesting Fact: If you sit in the very back seats, you will be in for the jostling of your life & are virtually guaranteed to get airborne, courtesy of Mexico City’s many potholes….the peseros got their name because they originally cost only $1 peso per ride.
4. Buy a simple phone
I bought a simple phone mainly for texting and calling. This was great for two reasons – I saved money by having a local number, and it remained inconspicuous unlike a smart phone, which would attract unnecessary attention.
5. Buy your clothes in Latin America
Source: Altiplano Institution
Ecuador and Peru are rich in alpaca and llama wool wear as well as intricately-designed cotton blouses and pants/skirts. These clothes were great and comfortable for the cold weather and make for an exotic collection. Had I not brought so many clothes along, I would have indulged in more local wear!
Do you have tips to contribute? Comment below or write in to firstname.lastname@example.org to share your experiences!
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